Ben Crawshaw sails the Ella skiff

Ben Crawshaw sailing Ella skiff

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Theinvisibleworkshop weblogger, writer and small boat sailor Ben Crawshaw has been sailing the sailing version of the Ella skiff off the coast of Catalonia – and I am delighted by the review he has posted.

The boat’s builders call the boat El•la – a point that won’t be lost on my own daughter, who is named Ella.

Read Ben’s piece at Theinvisibleworkshop here.

I’m delighted that he was able enjoy such a nice day of sailing with his daughter Yoeh, and I’m thrilled that my simple little boat designed lived up to his expectations.  Yes, here’s a set of boat plans that are free and which produce a little boat that works as I’d planned and hoped.

Here’s the gist of what he had to say about my little sailing skiff design:

‘… I turned to wave to a small send-off party then re-trimmed the sail to go broad and tootle along just 200 metres off the shore… Ella was already well into her stride as we were still sorting out our seating arrangements.

‘The GPS registered a healthy 3 knots… the wind came up and white caps began to appear. The breeze settled at a solid 10 knots, causing us no great problem but raising our speed a knot…

‘The boat had already shown herself to be well balanced, with a light tiller and a touch of weather helm but I was impressed at how high she pointed to windward. She was wet, though, with the moderate breeze and chop and would have liked a reef. I tacked carefully and she came round well… Sailing dead down wind with the daggerboard raised Ella became unstable and ached to gybe but by lowering the board a tad and turning slightly to windward she regained posture.

‘Ella was not designed for these open sea conditions but like Onawind Blue [Ben’s Light Trow] she behaved well with the decent breeze and short sea… ‘

Many thanks for the report Ben!

Plans for the Ella skiff – both the rowing and the sailing version with a snug standing lug rig – are available from the plans page here at

PS – Since this post first went up, Ben has put up two more posts about the Catalonian Ella skiff, one showing details of the boat as built (I very much like the scheme for stowing spars by the way), and another about a day when the El•la and Ben’s Light Trow Onawind Blue were unexpectedly able to sail in company. This one includes some wonderful photos, including the two shots I’ve pasted below. Please take a moment to see Ben’s posts, and leave a comment: Ella details and Goodbye to Ella.

Ella skiff off the coast of Catalonia Ella skiff and Light Trow Onwind Blue



Ben Crawshaw sails Light Trow Onawind Blue in the Semaine du Golfe du Morbihan

Ben Crawshaw Onawind Blue in ther Golf de Morbihan photo by photos by Mónica Sitjes

Ben Crawshaw Onawind Blue in ther Golf de Morbihan photo by photos by Mónica Sitjes Ben Crawshaw Onawind Blue in ther Golf de Morbihan photo by photos by Mónica Sitjes

Ben Crawshaw Onawind Blue in the Golf de Morbihan. Photos by Mónica Sitjes

Ben Crawshaw’s been having a lovely time sailing his Light Trow Onawind Blue in the Semaine du Golfe du Morbihan – as the pictures above show. He’s been writing about it on his weblog –  the three posts so far are here, here and here.

Ben’s done some amazing sailing in his boat built from my drawings but hasn’t really sailed with comparable boats, so he and I have both been fascinated to find out how she stands up to competition. Here’s what he says:

‘Having never really seen her sailing alongside comparable boats I’d no way of judging her performance except that it seemed perfectly adequate for my use, which as you know has included offshore passages. Now I’ve seen that she goes very well indeed.

‘I say comparable boats though I doubt any were as light as OB and this really showed when sailing off the wind, she flew along. I find her very comfortable on this point of sail—wind over the stern quarter—I spoke to other crews who were worried about capsizing on squally downwind legs but this wasn’t an issue with OB as she simply accelerated as the gust came on. Hull trim is critical on all points of sail.

‘Morbihan is crowded, you’re rarely more than a couple of boat lengths from somebody else. I always tried to sail away from the pack but all the same a constant look out was necessary and I found myself wishing (for the first time) for a crew member. And if I do that sort of event again I will raise the boom beforehand.

‘I saw quite a few boats capsize, we did have some strong winds and stronger squalls but OB was fine. Sometimes I could stay sheeted in and ride out the gusts hanging my arse over the rail but at other times I had to let her luff. Just once I had to really throw my weight to windward. I think she’s good like this because the boom and sail are low, because she is trim-critical and responds to your weight being in the right place, and because I try not to sail overpowered.

‘There were a couple of four-hour upwind sails which were hard work. It’s not her favourite point of sail but she can do it without losing face.

‘I feel I know the boat very well now but can’t really judge how she would treat a novice. But certainly for me she’s a cracker and is perfectly suited to my purpose of simple, singled handed sailing and cruising.

‘Other boaters were interested and very welcoming, I didn’t feel apart for having a flat bottomed ply and epoxy boat amongst so many boats of traditional construction. I received compliments for her lines and speed.’

Read more about Ben boat here.

Ben Crawshaw’s weblogging again at The Invisible Workshop

Onawind Blue in children's book illustrated by Elena Val

We’re smiling from ear to ear after learning that Ben Crawshaw’s back to sailing and weblogging after a longish period of silence.

His latest post brings the delightful news that his little boat has featured in a children’s book illustrated by artist Elena Val. The book Benedict by author Teresa Duran examines the issue of perfection, and is available from Canadian publisher’s Groundwood.

For more about Ben’s adventures and his boat Onawind Blue built to my Light Trow design, click here.